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Editorial: Plant protein popularity

February 9, 2022
By Stefanie Croley


As the growth and interest in plant-based protein continues to grow in Canada, so too does the research and science. When an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada news release about the protein composition of dry edible beans landed in my inbox recently, I excitedly opened it up. While there has been lots of buzz around lentil and pea protein lately, common or dry edible bean protein doesn’t seem to be as popular. 

We all know a cheeky limerick or two about beans – they’re good for your heart, of course. Although many varieties of the “musical fruit” are known for their protein and fibre benefits, the news release from AAFC shared that when it comes to the common bean, the protein quality falls a bit short on the nutritional side, due to low levels of two amino acids. Thanks to research led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researcher Frédéric Marsolais, this may soon change.

Marsolais and a team of colleagues, with support from Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers, used molecular technology and genetic trait mapping to better understand how protein accumulation works at the molecular level, and worked to boost amino acid levels and improve protein quality. The team will build on this research, which has big implications for plant-based protein for human consumption – both in Canada and beyond. 

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This research is an exciting discovery that aligns nicely with the article on page 26 of this issue, “Shining a spotlight on sustainable protein,” which dives a bit deeper into some similar projects in Manitoba as part of the province’s Protein Research Strategy. As writer Julienne Isaacs reports, there’s a huge focus on plant protein industry in the province, with more than 600 jobs in the protein industry created since 2019, and more than $4 million in investments from the provincial government. Combine the lucrative market with exciting scientific developments and the future is bright for pulse growers.  

If only it were that simple on the agronomy side. I don’t have to tell you that growing pulses doesn’t come without challenges. While dry beans may not be as susceptible to certain diseases as pea and lentil crops are, they aren’t as strong when it comes to fixing nitrogen. Several factors, like irrigation and row spacing, contribute to the success of growing pulses. But as we’ve seen and heard over the last few years, the potential outcome could be great. 

This issue is our annual pulse-themed edition and inside you’ll find loads of resources for your upcoming season. If pulses are part of your plan for this year, we hope, as always, you’ll find information among these pages to help you with your decision making. And if you haven’t taken the plunge into the world of pulse crops just yet, perhaps some of the research and innovation you’ll read about in this issue will convince you to give it a go. 

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